USGS updates non-US oil, gas, NGL conventional resource estimates

The US Geological Survey estimates that the world’s undiscovered, technically recoverable conventional oil and gas resources outside the US total 565 billion bbl of oil, 5,606 tcf of natural gas, and 167 billion bbl of natural gas liquids, it said on Apr. 18. The assessment, which is the first since 2000, excludes the US where USGS is continuously assessing oil, gas, and NGL resources, the US Department of the Interior agency said.

The report includes mean estimates of resources in 171 onshore and offshore geologic provinces, USGS said. “In the 12 years since the last assessment, the steady progress in technology now allows additional resources to be regarded as technically recoverable,” said Marcia K. McNutt, the agency’s director. “By placing this information in the public domain, government leaders, investors, public and private corporations, and citizens have a common information base for planning and decisions.”

The assessment results indicate that about 75% of the world’s undiscovered and technically recoverable conventional oil is in four regions: South America and the Caribbean (126 billion bbl); sub-Saharan Africa (115 billion bbl); the Middle East and North Africa (111 billion bbl); and the North America’s Arctic provinces (61 billion bbl).

The report noted that while heavy oil, tar sands, shale gas, shale oil, tight sands gas, coalbed methane, and other unconventional oil and gas resources were not included, their volumes can be significant. “For example, the mean estimate for recoverable heavy oil from the Orinoco oil belt in Venezuela alone is 513 billion bbl [a 2009 USGS Orinoco oil belt team assessment], compared to mean conventional resources of 565 billion bbl for 171 provinces reported in this study,” it noted.

“While we continue to focus our efforts on ways to continue to grow domestic energy production for America and further reduce our dependence on foreign oil, better knowledge of untapped resource potential all around the world will help us make better decisions regarding both domestic and global energy policy and resource management,” US Interior Sec. Ken Salazar said.

“In particular, this assessment underscores the importance of continuing to strengthen our energy partnerships in the Western Hemisphere with nations like Brazil, where we are working closely with industry and government to share best practices on offshore drilling safety and to enhance the energy security of both our countries,” Salazar said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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